Pay up for protest damages

Authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have sent notices to at least 130 people seeking recovery for the damages caused during the violence last week over a controversial new citizenship law.

Notices were served on Wednesday to 28 people in Rampur, 26 in Sambhal, 43 in Bijnor and 33 in Gorakhpur for damaging property during last Friday's protests. They have been asked to pay up over Rs50 lakh to avoid seizure of their properties.

"Assessment of damage has been done and notices were issued to 28 identified people for the recovery of damages," said Mr Aunjaneya Kumar Singh, a senior government official in Rampur district.

"Those who were involved in the destruction of public property have been identified through CCTV footage and their names have been sent by police. Of the 28 people served notices, a few have already been arrested."

The crackdown by the local authorities comes after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's warning that his government will take action on those involved in damaging public assets by auctioning their properties to compensate for the loss.

Reports said the authorities have asked the 130 people (majority of whom are street vendors) to pay for the damages caused to vehicles, police helmets, and batons during the violence.

More than 60 shops in Muzaffarnagar were sealed last week as part of the crackdown.

Authorities recently said they have detained 5,205 people, of whom 705 were arrested across the state.

At least 15 people were killed during protests across Uttar Pradesh last week. The police chief in the state said his men did not fire a single bullet at protesters. Protests erupted on Dec 11, the day India's upper house of parliament passed the law. Since then there has been no let-up in the protests.

The law aims at granting citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to six religions - Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Parsi and Christianity - from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, it has kept out Muslim immigrants from applying for citizenship. Opposition parties and civil society members criticise the law as contrary to secular principles enshrined in India's constitution.

On Wednesday, more than a thousand students, artistes and writers protested in New Delhi and Assam state. In Guwahati, Assam's capital, protesters sang patriotic songs urging unity, painted on canvases and created a sculpture.

One of the paintings showed independence leader Mohandas Gandhi stabbed in the heart, while others depicted protests with blood in the streets.

In New Delhi, writer and activist Arundhati Roy joined protesters and asked people to guard against any oppression by security forces.

"We will have to protect each other. And now, when they (government forces) are entering people's homes, we must patrol those areas and put our bodies on the line," she said.

Twenty-three people have been killed nationwide since the citizenship law was passed two weeks ago.

Protests erupted across the country, with Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam states the worst hit.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students marched through the streets of New Delhi to Jantar Mantar, an area designated for protests near Parliament.

They walked behind a huge banner that read, "We the People of India."

Vipul Kumar Chaudhary, a student, said the purpose of the march was to ensure that there was no discrimination on the basis of religion.

"India is a bouquet of people representing different religions. We want to preserve it," he said.

The Press Trust of India reported that German student Jakob Lindenthal, who was studying at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, returned home after his visa was cancelled by the authorities for participating in an anti-citizenship law protest in Chennai this week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the law, calling it a humanitarian gesture.

Indo-Asian News Service, AP, AFP


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